The Resilient Lawyer – Turn Off the Ding!

In my article last week, I wrote about how a hockey news story started my journey to resilience.  This week, another news story, Apple’s unveiling of its iPhone 12, reminded me of one of the most effective tools in my resilience toolbox. 

Like most of us, I was enthralled by the advent of the cell phone.  The first one I had was a monster.  Despite its size, I was thrilled with my ability to connect with other people anytime and anywhere.  So, when we were eventually able to send and receive emails from our cell phones, I was over the moon and went and got my first Blackberry.  I loved being able to send and receive work emails whenever was most convenient for me, including evenings and weekends.

Then came the iPhone with all its apps.  My first iPhone was the 3, and ever since I got it, never left my side.  Of course, I got newer versions of it as they came out and I began using them for getting my news, my sports updates, searching the internet, listening to music and playing games.  However, one of the uses I started making of it ultimately made me realize its greatest danger.  The use?  As an alarm clock.  The danger?  Being constantly connected to work.  

Using my iPhone as an alarm clock required me to have my cell phone by my bed.  Inevitably, as I was trying to fall asleep, a “ding” would announce the arrival of an email.  Being curious as to what the email might be about, I would pick up my phone and check.  The outcome?  Me fretting about the email, about the case the email was about, and then the myriad of other cases I was handling.  The fretting would result in me having trouble falling asleep, which in turn meant lesser hours of sleep and being tired the next day at work.  

My solution was to enlist all the discipline that I could muster to not check my email.  The outcome?  Failure. Why?  Because every time an email came in there was a ding announcing its presence.  The ding resulted in me thinking about who could possibly be emailing me, what did the email say, was there an issue, and so on and so on and so on.  Again, the fretting resulted in me having trouble falling asleep and you know the rest.  Eventually, this wore on me enough where I finally decided to turn off that darn ding.  The outcome?  Massive relief!  Without thoughts of work being the last thing in my mind before going to sleep, I was able to fall asleep faster.  This in turn resulted in me getting more sleep and being well rested at work the next day.  

Since I was thrilled with my success, I then took it one step further.  I decided that I was not going to look at any work emails after I left work for the day (unless I was taking work home with me) and until I got to work the next morning (cue the screams of any managing partners reading this).  All I can say is that it was a huge stress reliever.  I was able to, to a large degree, leave my thoughts of work behind at work. Imagine being able to be fully present with your family having dinner, not checking emails, and being stressed about work.  Imagine being able to wake up in the morning, go the gym and only start stressing about work when you actually get into work.  It was amazing!  

In case you have not guessed it yet, the tool in my resilience toolbox that I am writing about is unplugging.  The benefits of unplugging are amazing, and I am not just talking about not checking emails.  I am talking about taking a break during the workday to recharge and a day or two on the weekend to let go of work and take some time for yourself (okay managing partners you can breath a little bit of a sigh of relief – associates can still work a day on the weekend).  Don’t just take my word for it.  Go read all the studies that speak about the benefits of unplugging and recharging.  Think of it this way.  You would not exercise 24/7 – your body could just not take it.  Likewise, your brain needs some time off.  Give it a rest and I guarantee you will come back to work recharged and more productive.

For the doubters, I know what you’re thinking.  That email you got at night is really urgent though, right?  That you need to respond right away or the world will end?  I can honestly tell you that I can’t think of one time in my 24 years of practicing law that the so-called urgent matter could not be dealt the next day when I got into the office.  Fretting about it at night and then in the morning will only lead to one thing – at some point or another you won’t be able to open your proverbial car door just like me.  By unplugging, I guarantee you that you will be better equipped to handle that urgent matter the next day when you are well rested and have not been fretting about it all night.  

Trust me – get that unplugging tool out of your resilience toolbox and let go of the stresses and demands of work.  It will re-invigorate you and a re-invigorated you is able to bring your best self to your family and to your work.  Like I said last week, not a bad benefit in my book.